Tacloban, Philippines — Pope Francis cut his trip to Tacloban short Saturday as an approaching typhoon with blistering winds threatened the city in the Philippines.
The Pope donned a slicker to conduct an outdoor Mass for hundreds of thousands who gathered despite stormy weather.
The Mass in Tacloban was shortened after sustained winds of 80 mph and higher gusts howled toward the city.
Tacloban is still recovering from the 2013 disaster of Super Typhoon Haiyan, described as one of the strongest storms ever recorded with 195 mph sustained winds. It killed 6,300 people nationwide.
Typhoon Mekkhala was upgraded from a tropical storm and made landfall in the Philippines in the afternoon just northeast of Tacloban.
The Mass began about a half-hour after he landed. Wind rustled the hood on the pontiff’s slicker as he spoke to a crowd clad in raincoats.
Wet, gusty forecast
Typhoon Mekkhala, which is called Typhoon Amang in the Philippines, was arriving on the island of eastern Samar — about 50 miles from where the Pope was in Tacloban.
Just two weeks ago, a tropical storm struck Tacloban and surrounding areas, causing a commercial passenger plane to slide off the runway while landing. Tropical Storm Jiangmi, renamed Seniang in the Philippines, killed 54 people in landslides and flash floods in that region, CNN affiliate ABS-CBN reported.
During the Pope’s visit to Tacloban, he will have lunch with survivors of the 2013 Typhoon Haiyan, renamed Typhoon Yolanda in that country. That typhoon displaced 918,000 families nationwide, the government says.
He is also to bless the Pope Francis Center for the Poor and will meet with clergy and more typhoon survivors in the cathedral in Palo.
Sunday Mass in Manila
The pontiff is also scheduled to perform an outdoor Mass in Manila on Sunday before millions of Filipinos.
By then, the storm should weaken to a tropical depression. Still, Manila could face gusty winds and significant rain during the Mass.
The Pope’s trip to Asian isles began Tuesday in Sri Lanka, and he landed in the Philippines on Friday.
On Friday, Francis met with President Benigno Aquino, and the pontiff urged the political leader to reject corruption and promote “honesty, integrity and commitment to the common good,” the Vatican said. He also spoke of “the moral imperative of ensuring social justice and respect for human dignity,” according to a copy of his remarks provided by the Vatican.
“Here in the Philippines, countless families are still suffering from the effects of natural disasters. The economic situation has caused families to be separated by migration and the search for employment, and financial problems strain many households. While all too many people live in dire poverty, others are caught up in materialism and lifestyles which are destructive of family life and the most basic demands of Christian morality,” the Pope said in other remarks.
The Pope leaves Manila for Rome on Monday.